Wednesday, January 19, 2011

NDF to call for amnesty for all political prisoners

Wednesday, 19 January 2011 12:35 Myo Thant

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – National Democratic Force (NDF) party officials say their first priority will be to present a bill during the first session of the new Parliament to grant amnesty for the nearly 2,200 political prisoners.

Parliament affairs committee member Khin Maung Swe said: ‘We believe that the political prisoners should be released as a priority when the government changes to the new system. For the dignity of the country, the newly elected president should issue a general amnesty order for these prisoners’.

The Thai-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP-B) says there are 2,178 political prisoners in prisons across the country.

AAPP-B Secretary Teik Naing said, ‘This matter must be raised both inside and outside of Parliament by both winning parties and non-winning parties. They must raise the issue consistently and resolutely’.

Critics of the military government note that the controversial laws used to charge and imprison dissidents and opposition group members still exist.

Laws such as the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act and the 1975 Law Safeguarding the State from Danger of Subversive Elements are repressive tools used by the government to silence freedom of speech, say opposition group members.

Exiled-based Burma Lawyers’ Council chairman Thein Oo said that newly elected members of Parliament must move to repeal such repressive laws.

“These laws are specifically made for arresting political activists. The activists and politicians who fight within the parliamentary framework must work to remove these laws so people can enjoy their natural rights’, said Thein Oo.

Among the political prisoners are ethnic leaders, 255 monks, members of various political parties, and former members of parliament.

Activist Ashin Zawana of the International Burmese Monks Organisation said that releasing political prisoners would be the gateway to democracy and human rights in Burma.

‘Medical care in prisons is very poor so it seems as if the government is intentionally trying to kill these prisoners inside the prison. The government will increase its dignity by releasing these prisoners and also it will pave the way to democracy and human rights’. Ashin Zawana was imprisoned for 15 years for his political views.

U Etriria, another exiled monk who works with the All Burma Monks’ Alliance, noted that since January 6 the ABMA has led signature campaigns in the US, India and Sri Lanka for the release of all political prisoners. The signatures will be presented to the European Union, the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

A list of political prisoners in Burma compiled and by the AAPP-B in December 2010:

Political prisoners Number
Monks 255
Members of Parliament 12
Students 282
Women 174
NLD party members 399
Human Right Defender and Promoters Network 31
Ethnic nationalities political prisoners 225
Relief volunteers of cyclone Nargis victims 20
School Teachers 26
Journalists 42
Lawyers 11
Labour rights activists 44
88 generation students 39
Medical doctors 11
Individual political activists 607
Politicians in poor health 142

Laws used to convict political activists:

1. 1950 Emergency Provisions Act
2. 1975 Law on Safeguarding the State from Danger of Subversive Elements or 1975 State Protection Law
TV and Video Law
4. 1908 Unlawful Associations Act
5. Electronic Acts Law
6. Immigration Act Amendment
7. 1947 Public Order Protection Act
8. 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Law

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